October 1, 2010
© Dan Thompson
It’s a good thing kids are sweet and beautiful no matter what their current physical state because I find it nearly impossible to keep mine looking put together all any of the time. I’m not a high maintenance person myself, not overly concerned with primping like a prom queen every time I leave the house but I do want my kids to look like they have parents who know the basics of cleanliness and personal hygiene.
From Laylee’s hair to Wanda’s filth-encrusted clothing to Magoo’s terminal milk mustache, my children make it their goal in life to look like their mother doesn’t care enough to bathe them or launder their clothes.
It’s mostly, not all, but mostly about me. I’ll be honest. I find that there are some areas of parenting where I’m selfish, where I care more about looking like a good mom than being a good mom. Will my kids suffer in any way if I let go and allow them to be filthy? Probably not.
They do need to learn to be clean, neat and polite in order to get a job one day and probably to make decent friends but for the most part with a good personality and a kind heart, Magoo could make it through kindergarten just fine with a milk mustache and pants with worn-out knees. But I can’t make it through kindergarten with him looking like that because I know better and society has some basic expectations and my kids are little extensions of me.
With Wanda I know it doesn’t really matter what she looks like. She’s a baby. It is fun to stick a fat bow in her hair and prance her around like a little baby princess but this never lasts and sometimes I wonder why I get her dressed at all. Asleep or awake, in a mud pit or a sterile rubber room, she can find a way to destroy whatever she’s wearing. Sometimes I’m still putting on her outfit when she realizes there’s something in her mouth that needs spewing. Other times she waits until the middle of the soccer game to go tearing off across the field on her hands and knees in her pastel stretch pants.
She likes to smear things on fabric. The darker the goo, the lighter the fabric she likes to smear it on. If her clothes are not pale enough to be stained, she’s more than happy to use me as her canvas.
For years we’ve been trying to train the older kids to wipe their food goo on napkins instead of their clothes and we’re starting to make some progress. Now about half the spaghetti mouths, chocolate fingers and greasy hands don’t end up ruining clothes, often new clothes the bigger kids are wearing. Progress is good.
But Wanda’s already fallen into bad habits. Yesterday I watched her hold up a slimy hand full of smashed banana, give me a guilty look and then reach down and wipe it on her pants. Really?! Yes, really.
If there is mud, they won’t play in the grass. If there’s black play-doh, they’ll skip the white. If there’s a way to ruin a cute hair-do on the way to school, they’ll find it. They’re kids. It’s their job. I bet if I stopped looking at them and looked at their peers, besides the freakish few who remain constantly coiffed and dressed perfectly, I’d find that most kids look pretty much like mine. They’re the ones having fun.